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Gaye Batty

Gaye led the creation of the mirrored Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth and is now Project Director for constructing the city's new airport terminal.

Gaye BattyWhat do you do on an average work day?

As Project Director I have overall responsibility for keeping the project within budget, on programme and built with minimal disruption to the travelling public or its stakeholders. The New Plymouth Airport operates as a Council Controlled Organisation so is essentially a Council run organisation (CCO) - so I have all the public reporting responsibilities that go with that.

I have Project Managers and Project Engineers working for me to manage the detailed engineering design and daily construction programme.

We have completed the civil underground services and road works and have now started the excavation and construction of the foundations for the new airport terminal.

I was selected for the role having successfully directed the design and construction of the fabulous Len Lye Centre/Govett Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth which is clad entirely in Stainless Steel.

What did you study at school? And after high school?

At school in New Plymouth I studied a balance of maths and science and English and arts/languages at school. I had an excellent English teacher and I think that having the ability to write about and de-mystify technical matters has allowed me to progress from purely technical jobs into middle and senior leadership roles. 

I completed a B.Tech in Industrial Management & Engineering, graduating in 1981 from Massey University in Palmerston North.

Gaye in front of the Len Lye Centre being constructedWas your study directly related to what you do now?

I am often asked if and how I use the subject matter learned from my degree. I would say that understanding how to go back to first principles methodology, and questioning each step in a process or operational undertaking, has been the most useful skill.

By understanding and studying each component, processes can be simplified, re-engineered, improved and removed if necessary. This also applies to supply chain and distribution systems.

Project Directors are often tasked with reducing costs so listening to the customer is essential to keeping the value and integrity of the building. Keeping in close contact with the users of a process or a product or, as with my current role, customers and stakeholders of the new building, allows me to focus the design or re-engineering on the users and customers. 

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

Whatever you might think your career path might take, you must expect that path to be interrupted and to change many times.

My advice is to learn how to think, to question how things work, to be adaptable, and to embrace change.

Your career will be transformed many times over.

Gaye with a Len Lye art piece inside the completed Len Lye CentreWhat are some of your career highlights so far? 

There are many highlights from a very varied career!

My jobs have included owning and operating a video games arcade, being a Process Engineer at Tasman Pulp and Paper, working as a Marketing & Sales Consultant at a radio station, being a Logistics Analyst, working at Heinz-Watties, being a Logistics Operations Manager, and working for Fairfax NZ. 

I've also been a stay-at-home mum for 3 years, a Project Manager, self-employed, a Business Transformation Manager and now Project Director for the New Plymouth District Council.

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)  is important to New Zealand? 

Choosing STEM subjects has allowed me to be creative and to widen the conversations I am involved in, particularly at an executive level.

Often senior leaders are accountants, sales or marketing managers or HR managers - and they can lack a depth of understanding about the engineering science or statistical probabilities in the detailed technical reports they need to read.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Women think differently and can be more creative and articulate than their male equivalents and counterparts - so we have a vital part to play in boardrooms and leadership positions to achieve balanced and positive outcomes.

Gaye with former Prime Minister Helen Clark

Gaye is currently the Project Director for the construction of a new Airport terminal in New Plymouth.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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